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August 12, 2017

A Continuing Journey to Autism Awareness: My Day with “A Chance to Dance” Troupe at World Dance Championships. But There is so Much More Here. By Calvin Schwartz August 12th 2017

A Continuing Journey to Autism Awareness: My Day with “A Chance to Dance” Troupe at World Dance Championships. But There is so Much More Here.  By Calvin Schwartz   August 10th 2017













photo op in the garden


Awareness began 17 months ago when I interviewed an executive at The Graduate School of Applied Psychology at Rutgers University.  Rutgers was undertaking a program involving adult autism services. The first part would be employing special needs candidates at the university with a graduate student mentoring each person. Secondly, enrolling students that qualify and housing them in a special residential hall also with a mentoring roommate. My article from April 2016:

My awareness process began. I was dispatched on a learning curve and spent time at Hope Autism Solutions in Basking Ridge. Journalism pulled me in different directions until a few months ago, when a special synchronicity put me together with Bob Salomon from ‘Beyond the Laces.’





staging area near performance time


trophies in waiting

Bob introduced me (social media) to Kimberly Pace Smith, the teacher and coach of a dance troupe in Charlotte, North Carolina called ‘A Chance to Dance;’ the group composed of ten children (six on the autism spectrum but with other special needs). What was so outstanding; ‘A Chance to Dance’ was featured on a Today Show video, which has garnered some 34 million views as I write this. Video:

Meanwhile, Kimberly’s dance class troupe was invited to compete in the World Dance Championships being held at the Meadowlands Expo Center here in New Jersey.  Perhaps this article is an excavation into intestinal linings to find the right words to express.  I was entering a special needs world; a world of love, caring, patience, relevance and determination. A journey began. People to meet and miles to drive.




Its about the kids so Kimberly and I did a silhouette selfie


up the ramp to the stage

A few weeks ago, we connected. I knew background info as I googled my way around ‘A Chance to Dance.’ Kimberly has a “differently-abled daughter” so with her love of dance, fierce determination to give children ways (arts) to express themselves and through ‘Reagan’s Wish,’ a charity inspired by her daughter, ‘A Chance to Dance’ became reality. Kim believes in never giving up.

I asked how the notion of competing at the World Dance Championship arrived. It was something originally out of the realm of financial practicality until “a woman handed us $10,000 and funded the whole trip.”  She explained, “We’re going for two reasons. Being in Jersey at the Worlds is a bigger platform to raise awareness for special needs. And other countries will be there and children with special needs are considered less than and all kids are just as capable.”





Kimberly readying the team on stage


the perfect performance

The date for their competition was Tuesday August Kim and I met in the hotel lobby at 9 AM. I was easy to spot in the lobby; my red Rutgers hat. We hugged with the emotion of first-time meeting and why we were there. Kim explained, “for the kids this is all about self-confidence and realizing social skills and that they have friends. There are ten kids-all with different special needs. Six out of ten on autism spectrum and with additional needs.”  Kim also thanked the volunteers who are always there, Miss Donna’s School of Dance and the kids and parents for making this all work.

Next, Kim introduced me to Sarah Nelson Conklin, an incredibly talented freelance photographer, travelling with the dance team who were assembling in the hotel garden for a photo-op. What I noticed as the kids got ready for a group picture, was a radiant smile on all their faces.




Kimberly and special volunteers; a prideful moment watching


improv dancing after performance

Kim asked me to say a few words to the parents; my special journey.  What I learned is that government services work for the kids until they finish 12th grade and enter adulthood. When they age out, there is little support structure. It’s like the government walks away. And parents worry about their kids. I was moved as parents came over to me, intrigued and hopeful that the initiatives I spoke about would be in place when it was time for their kids. This was their shared concern.

To the Expo center.  This was the World Dance Championships. Teams began congregating in an organized assembly line starting in the lobby filled with red-carpet backdrops for photos. A Chance to Dance team posed with parents, individually and as a team, all the kids still smiling. The wait was long and tenuous until the team finally moved inside and sat near the stage. The show hall was cavernous, intimidating and frighteningly loud with a few thousand spectators. But the kids maintained composure, still smiling and some, practicing their dancing moves.




Best Performance Team of World Dance Championships


Kimberly Pace Smith & photographer Sarah Nelson Conklin and some of team celebrating in NYC after competition.

The kids were spirited as they moved into the staging areas, slowly, inexorably moving closer to their walk on stage to perform.  I was part of this moment, hugely excited. And then I went introspective and realized how privileged it was to be part of this.

Backstage, I watched A Chance To Dance poised and confident. The music, ‘Singing in the Rain’ echoed and Ava strolled with her pink umbrella. They were costumed impeccably right down to the pink bows in the girl’s hair and pink ties for the boys. They were perfect. I watched Kimberly watch them on the other side of the stage. I took pictures; Kimberly’s pride and love evident.

Post-performance, the kids posed on the media platform.  And then the laborious waiting for the results, first inside the hall where the kids just started to dance again, improvisational, still filled with so much energy.  Kim told me that in 2015, they started A Chance To Dance, “with the seat of our pants. It took months for the kids to just trust each other and us. Then like a light switch, everything took.”

Yes, everything did take. The kids took Best Performance Award at World Dance Championships and I took home memories of one of the best days in a life. And those kids, indelible, precious and inspiring. I needed this.







Calvin & friend

June 15, 2017













Twitter: Earthood




June 15,  2017

The Oprah Magazine

Oprah Winfrey, Founder and Editorial Director


Dear Oprah:

The energy for this letter began on Tuesday April 18th when you were a guest on the Dr. Oz Show devoted to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” (a wondrous film). I knew that I’d be sitting in the special VIP first row seats, close to the guest sofa. I wanted to get your attention so I wore my ‘loudest’ socks which you noticed. My legs were crossed and gyrating. You smiled at me and my socks. There was a reason for attention getting.

Last summer, I began mentoring two special recent Rutgers University graduates, Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson. Chisa and I met four years ago at the Garden State Film Festival. He was a film intern and I was there to see a cutting edge film on Emmett Till.


with Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson at IDT headquarters in Newark



with Senator Cory Booker along the Jersey shore

Two years ago, Chisa and Kayla conceived a company, PeduL ( which would become an online crowdfunding tool that connects students with resources and support they need to pursue higher education. I always look at the whole planet earth and big pictures. Coming up with ways to help educate youth across the world, can change courses of history. Taking some of the burden away from financially strapped government is good stuff.

I believed in these “kids,” so last summer I started mentoring them. Then I met with Senator Cory Booker here in New Jersey. I asked him for 44 seconds time. (same time to read letter). I explained the same thing. Three days later, his aide called me and I brought the “kids” from PeduL to meet with his top education aide at his Newark office.

A year ago, IDT Ventures in Newark, part of IDT Corporation, a billion dollar plus telecommunications, pharmaceutical, entertainment and energy company took PeduL into their incubator program.



with Nick Clemons, Andrew Schuman and DR OZ from April 18th


Why did I wear those socks? To try and get your attention and talk those few seconds with you as I did to Senator Booker. I marvel at you, your accomplishments, humanitarianism and commitment to global education. I felt you should know about these special “kids” and their vision of a better smarter future and world.

If ever you’re floating around New York City and…………

Wishing you much success with the film and only good things always and all ways.



PS:  I’ve enclosed pictures to aide in my story telling. They are my socks which you smiled at, with Kayla and Chisa in Newark, with Senator Booker and with Dr. Oz, Nick Clemons (son of Clarence Clemons) after the show.

May 5, 2017

It Continues To Be a Brave New World: First Annual IDT Hackathon April 22nd -April 23rd Newark NJ by Calvin Schwartz

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , , , , — earthood @ 9:20 pm

It Continues To Be a Brave New World: First Annual IDT Hackathon  April 22nd -April 23rd Newark NJ   by Calvin Schwartz  












Thinking back over the past few years, I wonder how many times I’ve invoked references to a brave new world. I do know; I’ve been stingy. There has to be extant reasons and perfect celestial alignments. Several months ago, I was invited to attend IDT Corporation’s First Annual Hackathon by IDT Ventures head, Jacob Jonas. I sensed something special, brave, cutting edge(new) and cerebrally celestial.

So what is a Hackathon?  This was my first impulse to discover.  A hackathon is like a race (marathon) event where software developers, programmers, graphic designers, interface folks, project managers, all work together in an intensive collaboration over a relatively short period of time. The finish line is the creation of practical applications of software with a specific focus, in this case, the best messaging, payments, or communications related mobile app. There are teams put together, each member bringing an expertise to their cubicle of residence, where they spend those intimate hours competing against the other teams in their own field of dreams (cubicles).



IDT Ventures Jacob Jonas hosting Hackathon


with IDT CIO, Golan Ben Oni, two guys with hats.

A brief article departure. Watch how I develop this. For the longest time, I’ve worried about our planetary home (earth) with some indigenous problems like climate change, ocean’s rising and running out of fish, 300 million people in Asia without drinking water; all illustrative of things often running through my mind.  I am unsure if we, the species, can effectively solve these problems and save our aging planet. Then came my six hours in Newark at IDT headquarters, observing the energy and composition of the competing teams. I haven’t felt this earthly emotional in a while.

At IDT, I saw youth and exuberance. Some were in high school and college, representing wonderful diversity in culture, geography and sociology. All the participants were accomplished and focused.  After a few hours, I realized earth does have a better future with the likes of these kids competing here; they were dedicated imaginative thinkers.  What I saw was so uplifting and revolutionary; this is a brave new world of knowledge and youth. I was grateful to IDT for investing in youth, promise, tomorrow and for inviting me.





On the fourth floor, around 5:30 PM on Sunday April 23rd, I met with Jacob Jonas who briefed me on the final stages of the Hackathon which would run to 11 PM. My mission as a journalist was to absorb. I looked over my shoulder; there was a large cubicle which served as home for one of the teams. The conference table was strewn with lap-tops, wires, water bottles, soda cans (some with sugar, some not), coffee cups and a vast array of back-packs. On the floor were several sleeping bags, visually depicting the hard reality of the event; the sleeplessness and urgency of the competitors. This was serious business. Teams stayed overnight working diligently to get to the finish line. I just remembered what Adrienne told Rocky Balboa, “Win Rocky Win.”




Jacob Jonas handing 1st place prize to Shaoliang Zhong with Jonathan Hyman (CTO of Appboy and a judge for Hackathon)


with PeduL execs Chisa Egbelu & Kayla Jackson with downtown Newark in background


The commonality of two people wearing hats in a place where most were hatless brought me to Golan Ben Oni. Of course I was wearing my Rutgers hat. Golan was much more fashionable. If he was here on a Sunday evening, it must be for a reason. We leaned on a desk to chat.

Golan is the CIO of IDT Corporation; that’s chief information officer and he’s been at IDT since 1995 when he arrived and planned on staying only a few weeks. His father was a food scientist for Planter’s and Fleishman’s Yeast.  The family arrived from Israel and soon settled in California where Golan enrolled at University of California at Berkeley when he was sixteen.

He’s been asked to teach at Rutgers Business School and help with the executive program. He is captivating and actually disarming, leaning on a desk and chatting, wearing a hat; his knowledge, brilliance and depth are on a proverbial other planet. His teenage son, busy on a lap-top, did our photo-op. Golan was thrilled to school me on the mechanics of the Hackathon.



IDT Ventures Showcase – PeduL execs presenting


3rd place Man Cave Sharing Mark Annett, Tejas Shah, Mosies Cordero, Samuel Lebreault, Ivan Quan and Patrick Needham holding their Raspberry Pis. Hackathon Judge Zev Green far left.



Next, Golan introduced me to Tom Brennan, OWASP( Board of Directors. More brave new world for me. OWASP has 55,000 members in 110 countries and their function is to raise visibility for software security. Who knew this kind of organization exists? Tom was a judge in the first round of Hackathon presentations along with Zev Green, IDT’s Director of Emerging Technologies; Nathaniel Ritholtz, IDT Software Engineer; Jonathan Hyman, CTO of Appboy; Anthony Delgado, CTO of FOWNDERS; Sharon Ptashek, Senior Manager, Mobile & Emerging Platforms at CBS Interactive. Each team had five minutes to present their projects to the judges followed by five minutes of Q&A.





IDT Ventures Showcase Judges


Hackathon coders at work


First place was awarded to ‘Chill’ which is an app where you and your friends stream videos over your phones while still being able to talk to each other. The first place prize they received was an iPad Mini 2 for each winner.  The winners, Shaoliang Zhong and Xiaohang Su grew up together in China and now attend Stevens and NYU respectively.Second place winners won: Discovery HD+ Drone and third place won 32 GB Rasberry Pi 3.

Winners of the AI competition (team that best incorporated artificial intelligence into their Hackathon project) received an Amazon Echo sponsored by FOWNDERS.  And speaking of FOWNDERS, ( based in my birth city of Newark, they are doing amazing things to “educate, inspire and empower the next generation of leaders” as a social impact accelerator taking on qualified startups who have proven market fit and display modern innovation; more brave new world applications for me to absorb.

One of the other teams, finishing in third place, developed ‘Man Cave Sharing’ which is like Airbnb for Man Caves. With my own proclivity to special sports Sundays, I was fascinated by their entry; more brave new world and personal visual projections of great places to hangout, shoot pool and watch a professional sport final on a giant TV screen far from the maddening sounds of homeward bound interruptions.



But the Hackathon was not the only tech-friendly event that happened this weekend. Before the final Hackathon presentation and the awards ceremony, IDT also hosted a Ventures Showcase event for six local startup companies that have synergies with IDT Corporation’s core businesses: Payments Tech, Messaging Apps, Communications Tech, and Technology that Serves Unbanked and/or Immigrant Communities. The Ventures Showcase companies (including the three teams in the IDT Ventures incubator program: PeduL, UpChannel, and ImaliMobile) all have strong synergies with IDT’s core businesses and/or target markets.



more coders at work


2nd place: Supernova Tasker with Nicholas Feuer, Alben Kalambukadu, and Stanimir Stoychev (All students at SUNY Purchase) holding their Drones. Zev Green, IDT Director of Emerging Technologies and a Hackathon judge ( left).

Last summer, I spent the day at IDT interviewing Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson from PeduL for NJ Discover. PeduL is an online crowdfunding tool that connects students with the resources and support they need to pursue higher education. That article can be seen at:

Each team had ten minutes to present and five minutes for Q & A with the panelist judges consisting of Shmuel Jonas, CEO of IDT; Jacob Jonas, Director of IDT Ventures; Scott Smedresman, Partner at McCarter & English; Aaron Price, Founder and CEO of Propelify.  The other companies presenting were Debitize, Stellar Employ and Modern Lend. Listening to all six ingenious presentations continued my yellow brick road journey to that brave new world. I did manage to remark to one of the team members, in keeping with my article theme, that when I grew up in Newark, my world of knowledge came from seven black and white television stations that went off the air at midnight followed by test patterns (remindful of ‘Poltergeist’) until the next morning. “They’re here.”





The AI Winners Christopher Tan, Timothy Goltser, Zeynep Akpinar, Curtis Mason. All 4 are High School students at Staten Island Tech. They won a side prize for the best use of artificial intelligence in their project. This prize was sponsored by FOWNDERS. Anthony Delgado, CTO of FOWNDERS and a Hackathon judge, is also in pix (far right).


Before the actual finals began, a splendid buffet of Chinese food and cold beer were presented to the assembled. I indulged, then explored and pinched myself (which I do only in moments of disbelief) that I was witness to this wondrous display of future think, exuberance, youth, imagination and earth hope. And I hope the decision making folks, if liking this article (expression) invite me back next year (2018) for my brave continuing new observations at IDT’s  2nd Annual Hackathon in my birth city, Newark.

January 13, 2017

A Journey to Awareness When You Least Expect It: Appreciating Latino Culture by Calvin Schwartz Jan 11th 2017

A Journey to Awareness When You Least Expect It: Appreciating Latino Culture   by Calvin Schwartz     Jan 11th 2017



Ricardo Fonseca’s ‘Act of Love-Trumpet’


Jose Rodeiro ‘Picnic at Bath Beach’













setting up at Monmouth Museum with curator Monica Camin



announcing exhibit at Monmouth Museum

This article title is aptly constructed. You go through life in Central Jersey and it seems sometimes you’re a million miles away from relevance and meaning. But it’s the same everywhere. Five years ago, when I was just beginning my journalism career, I happened upon Tent City, a plot of forest land in Lakewood, New Jersey where up to 100 people (humans) were living in tents for up to ten years, homeless and without electricity or running water. I least expected homelessness 20 miles from my home in comfortable Monmouth County. Ocean County had no provisions for homeless. Spending time there, I was changed irrevocably; I became aware of the devastating hopelessness of homelessness. Awareness is a gift.

The gifts were many as a journalist these past five years. I also learned about hunger, musicians, autism, bipolar and PTSD. Then suddenly last summer, in August, I received an email from Monmouth Museum, actually while I was reclining on a beach chair at the Dead Sea in 111-degree temperature. I was invited to attend the September opening exhibit of an emerging artist, Dion Hitchings. It was mid-September when I found myself at the museum checking out a fascinating exhibit. The artist used Cheerio and donut boxes instead of canvas. When I finished, museum public relations head, Laura Oncea, asked if I’d like to see a new exhibit that was being set-up in the main hall; Neo-Latino: Critical Mass. The curator, Monica Camin and assistant, Nicole Sardone were busy setting up. I walked in, looked to my left and saw Ricardo Fonseca’s “An Act of Love -Trumpet!” It was captivating and riveting and made me think. I love to think.  My wife and I absorbed the exhibit. I was hooked and engrossed but turned down an invitation to attend the exhibit opening reception on September 16th.



group shot with guests at NJ Discover LIVE TV Show October 2016


TV Show in planning stage with Monica Camin & Dr. Jose Rodeiro


Driving home, perhaps less than a mile from the museum, my friend, epiphany, helped me reverse my decision. I called and accepted the invitation for the reception. Epiphany reminded me that at the reception, there would be a gathering of some of the most prominent Latino artists in the country; some were PhDs and professors; all accomplished and successful. But present, beneath my soft cutaneous surface, were old and new stereotypes, many stuck in the current political climate. I hate stereotypes and falling into traps without being open minded. I’m confronted by my own lack of awareness of Latino (Hispanic) culture and that frustrated that it existed in me. I never want to be on an ignorant bus driving along a Gulf of Mexico highway. I keep seeking understanding, relevance and diversity as I go through the maturation process. In thirty years or so, minorities in America will be a majority. Isn’t it a good time to absorb, appreciate new vistas of culture?  Challenge your own assumptions.




with Mario Tapia, Dr Carlos Hernandez & Monica Camin at Nuyorican Cafe NYC for Poetry Anthology



with Newark’s renowned artist, Hugo X Bastidas, Monica Camin, Dr. Carlos Hernandez and Anthology moderator & poet Alan Britt.

The exhibit at Monmouth Museum,’ Neo Latino: Critical Mass’ was conceived at this pivotal time for the Latino voice, in the midst of an historic election and would stress the Latino cultural and socio-political experience. A collective of diverse artists was created to express a Latino voice in this new century. For me, that time has arrived; long overdue. Artists with roots or ties to Argentina, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Portugal and Spain were represented.  Before the reception, I sat in the garden (It was a late summer warm night) with the collective creators and curators, Raul Villareal, Dr. Jose Rodeiros, Monica Camin and Olga Mercedes Bautista. And then my favorite lightbulb went on; their energy lit my fire and I suggested doing an NJ Discover LIVE TV Show to further bring awareness to their work, culture and art. It was agreed and we did the show in October. Here is the link to “Neo Latino Artists Come to NJ Discover Live TV.” Please check it out. You’ll get a chance to see and hear about some of the representative art.  It was a great show.




with Duda Penteado, multimedia artist & anthology creative force


Iconic George Nelson Preston who founded Artists Studio in 1959 reading his poetry

A few weeks later artist (his work combines design, digital manipulation, digital art illustration, photography and sometimes animation and sound) Ricardo Fonseca invited me to attend the ‘We Are You Project’ Poetry Anthology Reading on October 27th at New York’s Nuyorican Café on the lower East Side. Another evening, this time with some of the country’s most prolific, prominent Latino poets. For me, it was a continuance of my recent journey to Latino cultural awareness. A commitment to mind expansiveness and learning. This notion securely etched in the stone of my determination. I let Woodstock in 1969 and Dr. King’s March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech in August, 1963 pass me by. No more moments in life would be unattended. Even though that night produced a cold heavy rain storm, I trained into the city with Monica Camin, curator of the “Neo Latino-Critical Mass” exhibit.

Indeed, so well worth the drenching trip. The café was alive with Latino artists and poets, dramatically reading some of their works. I had a chance to meet and chat with Dr. Carlos Hernandez, former President of New Jersey City University, Mario Tapia, President of the Latino Center on Aging and Duda Penteado, artist, poet and Brazilian-American. All three, so instrumental in putting this night together and more importantly, developing new, transcultural tools to help the emerging modern Hispanic population. Represented this night was work from the Beat Generation with George Nelson Preston. I was a happy guy. It brought me home to where/when I came from. There was so much more words/works that harvested emotion, diversity, passion, freedom and justice. I could write pages now about what I absorbed. I felt so elevated being there. I was alive again. I love the feeling of input and knowledge and involvement. Best if you all catch a flavor of the individual works that night, Go to:

and visually journey into the culture. Their culture is part of our American culture. It’s who we are; a nation of immigrants and a melting pot of diversity and creativity. I marvel at the universe for lighting my fire and bringing me here to awareness. There is a purpose to things; an order in the universe. Earlier this summer, I had a chance to interview Laurie Hernandez, a 16-year-old American- Latino gymnast just before she left for the Olympics where she won a Gold and Silver Medal. A few months ago, she dazzled America winning ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Then in November, I went to an evening of Comedy at the Headliner in Neptune Township featuring Peaches Rodriguez, a well-known Latino comedian.




early in summer with Laurie Hernandez, Gold Medal Olympian Gymnast & winner of ‘Dancing with the Stars’


My journey these past few months has been very special absorbing Latino culture as part of the promise of America. I’ve also done serious work with education and the promise it affords our future. I feel like I’m on that mountain top, looking down, beyond my long white beard which touches my knees. I understand things better now. I know education is what can help so many problems of the world. It’s a gift we need to share. I’m on a wonderful path. I love awareness and Latino culture. For me, it’s all a wondrous beginning; a new world; and an expected lot of miles yet to travel. And so it goes.

December 13, 2016

A SPECIAL PREVIEW: The STRAND Theater 94th Gala December 14th AND My Day at The STRAND by Calvin Schwartz December 2016

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , — earthood @ 8:34 am

A SPECIAL PREVIEW:  The STRAND Theater 94th Gala December 14th AND My Day at The STRAND  by Calvin Schwartz   December 2016













with Jesse Warren & Chris Everett in a regal empty art deco theater


This article becomes one of those combination platter journalistic efforts, previewing the upcoming 94th  Gala and delving into the inner workings and people behind the scenes at The Strand as well as reporting on my day exploring the sacred depths and heights of the theater, built in 1922.  I’ve said often, over the past five years, how much I love this theater, replete with that unique, rare, precious art deco ambiance. It was designed to be a Broadway theater because Lakewood back in the 1920’s and 30’s was a vacation destination and the thinking was to bring Broadway shows here, akin to previewing them. I’ve been to many shows and events at The Strand. The acoustics are magical; you can sit anywhere and it’s as if you’re sitting right up front.

Although I’ve been at The Strand often, as a reporter, I’ve never really sat down with the people that bring it to life nor have I gone to those depths in the pit below the orchestra where the music emanates from nor have I attempted to climb the multi-story ladder backstage to change ceiling light bulbs seemingly close to the clouds. Somebody in real life has to do it. I arrived at high noon on Tuesday November 22nd



the lighting where someone descends into from the ceiling



It was an old fashioned entry. I rang the street bell and was ushered in by Lori Davis, part of the team of programming energy, creativity and daily mechanics which brings life to the theater. Moments later, I was greeted by Fran Whitney, who’s also on that life line team. One of these days, I’ll write an article called “Women of The Strand” and include Dina Warren who also is part of the theater’s resurgence. Jesse Warren, account manager, walked with me up the front grand stair case. I could hear Annie singing at the top of the stairs. On December 2nd and 3rd, they’re staging ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’  So my hero, George Bailey might also be waiting for me at the top.

Jesse and I sat in a second floor office, overlooking Lakewood’s main street. He’s always this young enthusiastic persona.  We talked 94th Gala, and the amazing musical line-up for that night and other matters of greasepaint and roars. He thanked theater management, Scott MacFadden, Glen Harrison and Ray Coles for all their support.  Next, he phoned home, actually downstairs, to Chris Everett (absolutely not related to the former tennis player), and summoned him into the interview. Chris is the tech head, Jack of All Trades, the guy who makes people fly and who puts scenery and imagination into production. “This place would not be what it is. He brings this place to life,” Jesse added.



back stage view into the clouds of the theater.


the dressing room . my favorite place of lights and make up believe



Chris told me, “We make shows happen. Caitlyn Nelson is our assistant. Emily Lovell is our house lighting designer. She puts on a harness, climbs to the ceiling, drops down and hooks to a cage. That’s how lights focus in every show.” Later they showed me the ladder at the rear of the balcony which leads into the ceiling and how she crawls into position. Did I want to climb up and be a good journalist and take some pictures?  “I’m always a good journalist, but a safe one with my two feet anchored firmly at ground level,” I softly responded.

Chris continued, “Tom Frayley does House Audio and Gianni Scalise is the flyman and rigger and positive vibe technician. He climbs a five story ladder and hangs out on a steel catwalk.”  Chris explained how this crew does the work of ten people. Adding to Chris’ all around versatility is the fact that in the production of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ he played a part.



a “lighter” moment with Chris Everett, Caitlyn Rose & Gianni Scalise




My education of theater 101 behind the scenes continued. The crew has to learn everything before a production. Lighting and sound cues. They have five days to learn it all. That means 22-hour work days. “When it’s a musical production, we live for a week and a half here,” Chris proudly stated. He also reminded me that the technical director(himself) is also the house carpenter. His company is called Sound Foundation

Next was the inner sanctum walking tour to the basement level. Of course I flicked on the lights of the dressing rooms with all those light bulbs watching you put on make up. Imagination was quick to help me with my ‘Frankenstein’ make-up. Yes, I auditioned once when Reagan was President for that part.  An obscure doorway led to the orchestra pit and another small one led underneath the theater itself. It was a crawl space and I don’t crawl anymore. Gianni filled my sensibilities with lore of the theater; stories and legends of its rich history. Early on a drug store occupied the area where the gallery is located now.   And we’ll leave it at that.  Back upstairs, Emily and Caitlyn were figuring out how to get the box of fluorescent light bulbs up to the clouds above to change the dim bulbs to new bright ones. When I stared up, I had to hold on to the wall for support.



with tech wizard Chris Everett



It was time for Jesse to share info about the 94th Gala which he’s been diligently working on. Big Road Productions would be responsible for the best musical line-up they’ve ever had including The Big Road All Star Band. This would be my third Gala attended. And as I do often at the conclusion of my emotional pieces, I exhort readers to get off their sedentary sofa and come on down to The Strand on December 14th for a very special night. It really is.  Come for the Holiday Music and even the Dinner. Your choice. Here now the specifics of the night.


Wednesday December 14th Join BIG RoaD at The Strand Theater for “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!

The Strand Theater is proud to HONOR:

Thomas Jannarone, Owner Bar Anticipation/Attorney

Franke Previte, Academy Award Winning Composer (“Dirty Dancing”)

Steven Levine, Owner, WindMill Restuarants

Michael D’Elia, Committeemen, Lakewood Township


PERFORMING ARE : Bobby Bandiera, Lisa Sherman, Franke Previte, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa, Jobonanno, Joe Ferraro, Jt Bowen, Tommy Byrne

Band is: Ralph Notaro, Vinny Daniele, Joe Bellia, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Bob Ferrel, Tommy Labella

Get your tickets now “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!

The Strand Theater

400 Clifton Ave

Lakewood, New Jersey

Tel: (732) 367-7789



Produced and Presented by:

Terry Camp and Jesse James Warren for BIG RoaD


If you have any questions please feel free to call Jesse Warren at 732-367-7789, ext.204 or by email at







The Strand Theater presents its 94th Anniversary Gala with “A Very BIG RoaD Christmas!” on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – A night to celebrate this historic venue and enjoy lively holiday tunes with The BIG RoaD All-Star (Big) Band.


Tickets are $25.00 and doors open at 7:00 p.m. for the 8:00 p.m. show. Guests are also welcome for The Strand’s Gala Dinner and Cocktail Party at 6:00 p.m. – for which tickets are $100.00 (which includes an orchestra seat ticket).

The BIG RoaD All-Star Band is Mark Leimbach, Ralph Notaro, Joe Bellia, Vinny Daniele, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Tommy Labella, and Bobby Ferrel. Vocals by Bobby Bandiera, JT Bowen, Franke Previte, Lisa Sherman, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa,Jo Boanno, Killer Joe and more!


The historic STRAND THEATER, a non-profit 501(c)3, is Ocean County’s premier entertainment venue. THE STRAND opened its doors in 1922 and it shines as brightly today as it did then. Located in historic downtown Lakewood, THE STRAND is easily accessible and offers a wide variety of live entertainment including concerts, dance, musicals, & theater, comic performances, and arts education.


Strand Gala Information- The Board of Directors of the Strand Center for the Arts are pleased to announce the celebration of the theater’s 94th Anniversary. We cordially invite you to join us for our Gala and Holiday Celebration on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. The Gala will begin in the Strand Gallery at 6pm followed by a live performance on our main stage at 8pm. Several area restaurants will be serving their signature dishes and cocktails will also be served.



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